North Amer­i­can trade deal set for sign­ing as tar­iff fight re­mains


The U.S., Canada and Mex­ico are set to sign their new trade deal Fri­day fol­low­ing a year of in­tense ne­go­ti­a­tions to re­vamp the con­ti­nent’s free trade zone – and after Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s threats to kill it.

The coun­tries are ex­pected to ink the U.S.Mex­ico-Canada Agree­ment in Buenos Aires at the start of the Group of 20 sum­mit, three of­fi­cials fa­mil­iar with the plans said, speak­ing on con­di­tion of anonymity. It’s un­clear, though, if the heads of state will sign the doc­u­ment or cab­i­net-level of­fi­cials, and Cana­dian of­fi­cials said those ar­range­ments are still be­ing fi­nal­ized.

Putting pen to pa­per would bring some cer­tainty at a time of un­ease over global trade ten­sions, and be held up as an ex­am­ple of Trump-era deals as he pre­pares to meet China’s Xi Jin­ping at the G-20. The world’s two big­gest economies are em­broiled in an es­ca­lat­ing trade war.

Sev­eral hur­dles re­main. The agree­ment needs rat­i­fi­ca­tion to take ef­fect, al­most cer­tainly by the next U.S. Congress. Some parts will kick in im­me­di­ately, such as a deal ex­empt­ing Canada and Mex­ico from U.S. auto tar­iffs. The fine print is still be­ing tweaked, and Canada and Mex­ico re­main at odds with the U.S. over tar­iffs on steel and alu­minum.

The pact would up­date a 1994 deal be­tween the coun­tries, which trade more than $1 tril­lion an­nu­ally.

“As is al­ways the case with these agree­ments, there are al­ways de­tails to be fi­nal­ized and we are very hard at work do­ing that,” Canada’s For­eign Min­is­ter Chrys­tia Free­land told re­porters on Thurs­day in Buenos Aires. “We’re just be­ing sure that all the Is are dot­ted, all the Ts are crossed.”

Trump, Cana­dian Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau and out­go­ing Mex­i­can Pres­i­dent En­rique Pena Ni­eto are all at the G-20, though none have pub­licly con­firmed they’ll be the ones to sign. The na­tions had been rush­ing to have the pact inked by Fri­day Pena Ni­eto’s last day in of­fice. It’s pos­si­ble min­is­ters could sign, one per­son said.

Canada struck a deal with the U.S. on Sept. 30 to avoid the U.S. and Mex­ico pro­ceed­ing with­out it. It over­hauls rules af­fect­ing wide swaths of the econ­omy – re­quir­ing more high­wage con­tent in auto man­u­fac­tur­ing, open­ing Canada’s pro­tected dairy mar­ket and al­low­ing more duty-free ship­ments into Canada and Mex­ico.

Lawyers for the coun­tries are still fi­nal­iz­ing and trans­lat­ing the text of the agree­ment, a process known as a le­gal scrub.

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